Shooting at strangers

“unpaved private driveway is not lighted”

The three stories of men shooting at strangers who made mistakes of address or car make have troubled me more than I would have imagined.

In the local paper, the Times Union – it’s a local, as well as a national story – Chris Churchill describes the shooting at a car that mistakenly pulled up in the wrong driveway as “our deadly culture of fear.”

“Something is far more wrong if the immediate reaction is to grab a gun and begin firing. That leads to tragedy as heartbreaking as the death of a 20-year-old from Schuylerville who dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. Kaylin Gillis is described by those who knew her as ‘such a sweet girl, with a kind heart and big smile.'”

From the news story: “The lead slug that allegedly killed Gillis is designed to kill large game and is roughly three times bigger than a round fired by a handgun. [The accused, Kevin] Monahan likely would not need a permit to possess that firearm, according to multiple law enforcement sources.

“The unpaved private driveway is not lighted, and the only markers are mailbox numbers along the public road. The couple’s home sits at the top of the steep, curving driveway that hides its porch and the front entrance of the house from view. The property has several faded signs warning against trespassing.

“No one from the group had exited the car or tried to enter Monahan’s house… But as the car tried to turn around and leave to go back down the driveway, Monahan allegedly came out on his porch and fired twice — one of the rounds struck Gillis.”

Her friends desperately drove around in rural Washington County, seeking a  signal to call 911.

It’s a miracle

How 16-year-old Ralph Yarl survived being shot in the head by an 84-year-old homeowner after going to the wrong  Kansas City address seems nothing less than miraculous. There may be a racial component in this story.  The assailant reportedly shot Mr. Yarl a second time when he was already down.

Two cheerleaders,  Heather Roth, and Payton Washington, were shot in a Texas supermarket parking lot after one opened the door to the wrong vehicle. Ms. Washington was seriously wounded. These three events occurred within a week of each other.

Six-year-old Kinsley White of Gastonia, NC, was grazed on the cheek by a bullet after a man started shooting when a basketball rolled into his yard. This is, per a similar story, “the toxic stew of fear, paranoia, and distrust that influences so many and leads to violence.”

As a Boston Globe column points out,  There is no pro-life in a country that shoots its kids.

The Weekly Sift notes: “The NRA likes to say that ‘an armed society is a polite society’ (a quote Psychology Today critiqued last year). But these incidents make the opposite point: In an armed society, misunderstandings and trivial conflicts easily become life-threatening. In each of these cases, someone is dead or badly wounded because there was a gun involved. In each case, we can be thankful that no ‘good guy with a gun’ was ready to shoot back. Who knows what the body count would have been?”


Of course, it’s guns – it often is –  but it’s more than that. Stand-your-ground laws may affect the mentality of the citizenry, even in states such as New York, where the doctrine does not exist.

With so much societal violence, why did these stories resonate with me so much? Part of it is that I have a child in the age cohort of some victims.

Also, I think it’s a reflection of the loss of grace. I’ve been in cars that have turned into the wrong driveway several times.  Rural roads are challenging to navigate, especially at night.

About a decade ago, my daughter, her friend K, and I all started to get into a car at the 20 Mall near Albany in the evening. It LOOKED like my wife’s car. It was the make and model and a similar year. There was an unfamiliar woman in the driver’s seat. We all departed quickly, and I apologized. Subsequently, my wife pointed her car fob at the wrong vehicle more than once.

As someone who has worked the 1990 and 2020 Census and carried petitions for a judicial candidate, I was threatened once during each process, though no weapons were brandished.

I Googled “loss of social skills.” Articles are blaming the isolation from COVID and social media/technology. Many of the articles in the latter category long predate the pandemic.

An article about mental illness notes: “If we pursue proven measures designed to prevent access to firearms among people most at risk for perpetrating violence at their riskiest times, we will be moving significantly in the right direction.” Neither of the alleged shooters in Kansas City or upstate New York would have met the criteria for taking away their guns.

As is often the case, I don’t know how to fix this.

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